Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Robert Altman

In the infamous words of hip-hop superstar, 50 Cent, "It's yo birtday, we gonna party like it's yo birtday."

Robert Altman was one of the most talented, endearing and enduring filmmakers of the American "New-Hollywood" era.  His films, starting with his break-out 1970 success, M*A*S*H, defined what American filmmaking was all about. There were times when things got out of hand, but that's true of most visionaries. In 2006, shortly after the release of this master's final film, A Prairie Home Companion, Robert Altman passed away. Since then he has been dearly missed by lovers of American cinema.

Here's hoping that his young protege, and Assistant on his final film, Paul Thomas Anderson, can keep up his streak of brilliance and can one day be placed on the same mantle as Robert Altman.

For those not familiar with Altman's work here is a list of my favorite Altman films: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville, 3 Women, The Player, Short Cuts, M*A*S*H, A Prairie Home Companion.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Altman (1925-2006) And, happy birthday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The King's Speech - Tom Hooper

Last night I saw The King’s Speech, I hadn’t planned on writing a review on this masterful film as I cannot possibly add anything constructive to the discussion of this film. It is currently sitting at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 95% rating from the users of Yahoo! a demographic notorious for disliking critical darlings, it won the triple crown at the major guilds as it heads toward Oscar gold in two weeks. The fact is that I am just another amateur critic who loved Tom Hopper’s picture. It feels necessary, however, to back up my opinions with concrete thought.
The backbone of this film is the relationship between King George VI, played masterfully by Colin Firth and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). George has had a st-st-stammer since he was four or five years old, and while we now know that most speech impediments are caused by psychological trauma young in life, the most common way for parents to deal with them in the days of yore was to punish a child. King George V was no different than most of these parents. Without revealing a critical piece of drama, Logue is more familiar with the psychological aspects of speech problems that people have, and is called upon by Geoge VI’s wife, Elizabeth, to help her struggling husband become the man that they believe he is capable of being.
The most dramatic moments of the film are when tensions of the state come between Lionel and George; such as when his older brother, David, is struggling juggling a woman and the responsibilities of being king. This relationship, however, is a delightful one to watch develop as the picture progresses, Lionel’s guidance of the king through his problems is inspiring and oft-times hilarious, though never risible. 
Some may write The King’s Speech off as shameless Oscar bait. As a critical darling that has nothing to do with the masses who only want to be entertained. There is some truth in the first statement, but people who say it forget that Oscar bait still has to be pulled off or else you end up with another Elizabeth: The Golden Age or All the King’s Men. If a writer, director and group of actors decide to team up to make a film they believe the academy will enjoy: there is nothing wrong with that. The second statement, however, can only be spoken out of ignorance or not having seen the film. While it is slow in parts, as it is a “talking” movie, both Rush and Firth are at the top of the acting game (and could both end up on the podium giving acceptance speeches), they are hilarious and are vastly entertaining. 
Tom Hooper’s film may not, actually, be the best film of 2010. But, that is such an arbitrary and subjective statement that it is hard to quantify, qualify or defend. I do, however, believe that it had the two best performances I saw, and that if it isn’t the best film of last year, it is worthy to be crowned as such if or when it is. This is a picture worth seeing, and if you fall into either of the camps aforementioned, don’t be afraid to put down these prejudices until after you’ve seen it. And, if you still hate it, feel free to tell me I’m wrong and I’ll feel free to accept your opinion as that.